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Set texts at school

(111 Posts)
MillyR Thu 08-Sep-11 21:31:50

Sorry that this is a bit of a thread about a thread, but in education there is a thread discussing Of Mice and Men still being a set text at GCSE. Nobody has mentioned in that thread that it is a book about a man killing a woman. As Steinbeck wrote:

She is 'not a person, she's a symbol. She has no function, except to be a foil – and a danger to Lennie.'

This is in addition to 'Atonement' and "To Kill A Mocking Bird' both being set texts. In both of these a woman makes false accusations about who is the rapist. So in all three books a woman is harmed but we are pushed towards sympathising with a male character.

I am just wondering if this has a bit of an impact. When I was at school we did 'The Color Purple' and it had a major impact on me. I know these books must be looked at critically in schools, but criticising the books doesn't really cancel out the impact of the stories. Of Mice and Men is particularly sentimental and melodramatic so designed to move the reader to care about the killer.

Did anybody study these books at school, or teach them?

ecclesvet Thu 08-Sep-11 21:37:41

To Kill A Mockingbird is far from black and white (pun intended) about the false accusation. It's pretty clear that she is forced into the accusation by threats from her abusive father.

MillyR Thu 08-Sep-11 21:50:09

It is still a book about the impact of false accusations rather than the impact of being raped though.

MitchiestInge Thu 08-Sep-11 21:54:10

well it is about mayella's abuse as well though isn't it? that was sort of the point, I thought, that it was easier to condemn an innocent man to death than to tell the truth about her father?

bushymcbush Thu 08-Sep-11 21:56:33

When I teach Of Mice and Men, I always encourage discussion about Curley's Wife and her lack of identity / freedom / voice. I personally think it's a very interesting theme in the novel, alongside the racial and class prejudices.

Admittedly, the teenagers I teach do find it difficult to see things from CW's point of view, and occasionally one will come out with that gem: "she deserved it" hmm

MillyR Thu 08-Sep-11 22:00:44

I suppose I just think it would be more appropriate to study a book about the aftermath of rape which doesn't involve a false accusation. But perhaps such a book is widely studied in schools and I'm just unaware of it.

LeninGrad Thu 08-Sep-11 22:04:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Greythorne Thu 08-Sep-11 22:05:13

I read Of mice and men 25 years ago at school and to be honest, I had completely forgotten the female character who is killed by Lenny. I remember vividly the interplay between the brothers, the depiction of Lenny's SN, his brither's defence of him and ultimate killing of him. But the woman made no impact on me whatsoever.
Which goes to show how unimportant she is, what a non-character.
And suddenly your post strikes a real cord with me, 25 years later.

WillieWaggledagger Thu 08-Sep-11 22:11:06

at dp's school they teach (or at least used to, not sure now) angela carter's the magic toyshop at A level, which I htinink is pretty enlightened of them. the problem is it's a boys' school (though with some girlsin the sixth form) and they hve had lots of complaints because the boys can't ;'engage' with it apparently

WillieWaggledagger Thu 08-Sep-11 22:12:34

just to clarify I think the lack of engagement with such a topic is he probelm that should be tackled

MitchiestInge Thu 08-Sep-11 22:17:41

think I agree with you millyr but not sure what would be worse - the current texts or something by Alice sebold

you were lucky to do color purple at school though

MillyR Thu 08-Sep-11 22:21:01

I've just had a look and 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' is a set text for WJEC, but I don't know if a lot of schools choose it.

Greythorne Thu 08-Sep-11 22:21:04

God, my spelling is appalling tonight.
Chord. Not cord.

MitchiestInge Thu 08-Sep-11 22:21:59

Toni Morrison too

actually there are loads of good ones aren't there?

MitchiestInge Thu 08-Sep-11 22:27:31

(I mean loads to choose from not loads studied for gcse)

MillyR Thu 08-Sep-11 22:36:39

And now I've just looked up DS's set texts for year 10 and he will be doing both To Kill A Mocking Bird and Of Mice and Men!

LRDTheFeministDragon Thu 08-Sep-11 23:01:40

I did The Color Purple too (and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, same year), and it made a huge impact on me too - our teacher brought in some of Walker's writings about Womanism, too.

It's a real shame it's 'lucky' to do a text like that - but it is.

I think there would be no problem with, say one of the texts mentioned in Milly's OP - it'd be good to discuss what's disturbing there and why. But three?! I agree, that is really not good.

NormanTebbit Thu 08-Sep-11 23:10:19

Well you can take any piece of literature and analyse it from a feminist perspective. So it doesn't really matter what text you study.

NormanTebbit Thu 08-Sep-11 23:14:14

And I certainly studied more than three texts for a level - we studies Wuthering Heights, shelagh Delaney, and Sylvia Plath among the more traditional Shakespeare, Arthur miller, Chaucer, Great Gatsby, Tennessee Williams etc

NormanTebbit Thu 08-Sep-11 23:15:45

Oh and Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison. I loved my eng lit A level

bucaneve Thu 08-Sep-11 23:43:08

Surely 'I know why the caged bird sings' would be a bit too much for GCSE age, A level maybe?

We did An Inspector Calls, Of Mice and Men, Some Shakespeare and some WW1 and 16/17th poems for GCSE.

Didn't do A-Level English BUT did do A-Level Italian and the set text for that was by a female author (Lara Cardella). It talked about a teenage girl growing up in rural Sicily in the 70s and experiencing abuse from pretty much every man she encountered. (Unfortunately I don't think Italian's one of the more studied A level languages)

LRDTheFeministDragon Fri 09-Sep-11 00:06:35

'Well you can take any piece of literature and analyse it from a feminist perspective. So it doesn't really matter what text you study.'

I don't follow. IMO it's not really ok to accept studying texts that, when analysed from a feminist perspective, give the consistent message that women lie about rape and their being abused or killed isn't really terribly important and certainly not sufficient to merit widespread outrage?

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 09-Sep-11 07:46:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 09-Sep-11 07:49:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UsingMainlySpoons Fri 09-Sep-11 08:01:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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